Thursday, September 4, 2008
The Somewhat Weekly J - AlphaOops: The Day Z Went First
Those of you who have read my comments on Webkinz or seen me toting my Lil' Kinz White Mouse, Stanton (or as Alethea calls it - Jeremy's Rat), around at conventions, already know that my sons play a very large role in my life. They can get their dad to sing lullabies and read everything from Frog & Toad (with special voices) to the latest issue of Ranger Rick aloud at bedtime. As a result, I'm always on the lookout for new cool stuff to read the boys at bedtime. We've read longer works: The Hobbit, Peter Pan, and even a little C.S. Lewis, but the favorites, the ones we always come back to, are shorter works. I love to read classics from my own childhood: Dr Seuss' Cat in the Hat, The Lorax... Little Bear. That sort of thing. But I am always on the lookout for cool intelligent kid-friendly works... and I've found one.
I have to submit a new title to the list of what I consider to be masterworks of children's fiction: AlphaOops: The Day Z Went First by Alethea Kontis. Published in 2006 by Candlewick Press, this book's simple, yet brilliant premise is that Z is fed up with always going last. He stages a minor revolution allowing letters to go in any order they choose. Some are happy with their spot, but most are ready for a change and Alethea explores the ensuing chaos with an air of gleeful magic, a magic that is displayed with utter perfection by illustrator Bob Kolar.
I first read AlphaOops: The Day Z Went First aloud while standing out in front of my friend's car while he went to go pick up a painting he’d purchased from Ruth Thompson. Soon, my writer's group was crowded around the car, grinning from ear to ear and, much like my two boys, jockeying for position to get a better look at the pictures. Upon my return home, I read the book to the boys at naptime and then twice more at bedtime. It should be noted that at naptime the boys were not the only ones grinning at this priceless gem of alphabetical mayhem. The grownups paid attention too. Infact, I had to back up and start over for one adult (who shall remain nameless) because she’d missed a few pages.
In the two days since my return from Dragon*Con, I've read the book to my boys a dozen times and my four year old and seven year old have each read it to themselves too, though the four year still needs a little help on some of the pages. My oldest even took it to school for his "share", the modern equivalent of Show & Tell. The next book in the series, AlphaOops: H is for Halloween, has been scheduled for a Fall 2009 release by Candlewick Press and I have not looked forward to the release a children’s book so much since I heard a special about Henry Hikes to Fitchburg by D.B. Johnson and rushed out to grab a copy.